Lucas Browne, former British ambassador to Minas Gerais, points to similarities and opportunities between the state and the United Kingdom
Credit: Rafael Sandim/Expression
“Almost an Ambassador from Minas Gerais to England”. This is how Lucas Brown, the former British Ambassador to Minas Gerais, defines himself. After four years as ambassador in Belo Horizonte, head of the embassy in the capital of Minas Gerais, determined to fulfill his mission, King Charles III abandons the role of material state and returns to the private sector.
Possessed of a soft accent and a gradual and calm demeanor that doesn’t hinder communication, he says he’s found his place in the world in Minas Gerais, and although he’s still secretive about where he’ll be working, he’s determined to keep working. To develop relations and trade between the United Kingdom and Minas Gerais.
In a candid conversation with DIÁRIO DO COMÉRCIO, Lucas Brown spoke about his achievements at the helm. British Embassy and points out similarities and opportunities between the markets in Minas Gerais and the UK.
Many still don’t know or doubt what a consul does. Can you explain a little about your work in Belo Horizonte?
It was a calculated risk that I came to Brazil in the private sector, then entering the embassy and getting to this point. I am the son of a Brazilian mother who taught me Portuguese at home. This, obviously, was a huge advantage. My argument during the interview was that I can speak Portuguese and I understand how to do business in Brazil. I think this position is my dream job: get to know such an interesting position while working with different business sectors. Many embassies play a more cultural and social role. For the British Consulate here in Minas Gerais, we chose to work on the economic aspects of this relationship. Our mission is to identify and develop business opportunities between Minas Gerais and the United Kingdom, to nurture both and strengthen the historic ties that unite us.
What opportunities have you found, other than traditional opportunities? materials?
I have always tried to be very pragmatic in looking and understanding what would attract investment and create jobs here and there. Much of the world is moving towards a green economy, and I have tried to embrace the opportunities that already exist in that direction. Everyone talks about Brazil’s natural potential, and I learned that Minas Gerais is leading the way in embracing many of these opportunities. I did a lot of work in communicating the opportunities in Minas Gerais to the United Kingdom. I joke that I was the Minas Gerais ambassador to the British. I worked a lot with Fiemg (Industrial Confederation of the State of Minas Gerais), which does a great communication job. For example, Brazil’s energy matrix is one of the cleanest in the world, but one of the most diverse. Last year I learned that over 95% of Minas Gerais’ energy matrix comes from renewable sources. So, it is very important and needs to be said. I think communicating these facts internationally is very important because it opens doors.
But to communicate well, especially in the business world, you need data. We know this is still a difficulty in Brazil. How did you overcome these obstacles?
It’s a hassle, but I’ve gone after good partners like Fiemg, which I’ve already mentioned. Among my objectives is to support the diversification of the economic agenda. This does not mean to ignore it materials Agriculture and Mining. On the contrary, the importance of mining with strategic minerals will increase even more. Obviously, due to mining tragedies (dam failures in Mariana in 2015, and Brumadino in 2019) there is pessimism among international investors. But today we understand that without these strategic minerals there would be no energy conversion or development of more complex technologies like solar panels or wind turbines. So Minas Gerais has a great opportunity to change this narrative. Minas Gerais has a great opportunity not only to extract strategic minerals, but also to be a leader in Latin America and in the world when it comes to these heavy industries.
Brazil is going through an interesting moment taking over the presidency of the G20 and holding COP 30, also known as the Amazon COP. How does the United Kingdom see this moment?
Brazil is indeed at the center of international attention. This is an opportunity to protect the reputation of the country. Many things about Brazil are still poorly reported. People don’t know that Minas Gerais is the size of France, the second industrialized state, the third richest state, three biomes completely different from each other. The opportunities here are very different. So I think this is a great opportunity to communicate.
Trade relations between the United Kingdom and Minas Gerais are historic. Will it facilitate the progress of projects?
The first British investment in Brazil was in Minas Gerais: a gold mine, in Nova Lima. Hundreds of British residents have lived in Nova Lima for over a century and the cultural heritage, from religion to gastronomy, is very strong. Of course, things are not fast, there is a connection with commerce, I think it is about the future, the culture and the generation of talent. One of the projects I am most proud of is the implementation of the first bilingual public school in the city, with the possibility of expanding to all integrated schools in the city. When I talk about the future, it’s not in 20 years, it’s now, in 2030. Professionals in Brazil are likely to speak English. Everyone was there during the pandemic reality While staying in Brazil, it opened many doors for professionals working in companies in other countries.
A critical issue around the world is the training and retention of skilled labor. Europe has already passed the turning point of the age pyramid, and there are not many to qualify. Brazil is in the same process, but it still has a large pool of untrained workers that could be trained. Do you think that if we could speed up the education process in Brazil, we could make a difference in this school gap?
Brazil may have a great opportunity to invest mainly in technical training. It took us a long time to understand that not all professionals in the UK need to go to university. But for this to happen, technical education must provide a very clear career plan. So I was very impressed with the Senai network, for example, which has thousands of students in schools in all parts of Minas Gerais. The British can invest in the education sector, contributing to reducing inequality and doing good business.
You leave the embassy now. What are your plans?
I’d rather not talk about where I’m going, but the truth is I’m staying in Minas Gerais. I have a four month old baby boy at home, little Minirino. Minas Gerais will forever be a part of my life and I am very happy, I have a quality life here. Minas Gerais has great potential and now I want to be a part of that story in the private sector.
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